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Steve Kurylo and Prof. Robert J. Hudson Ph.D.
"Deer Velvet Antler"

Q: Hello everyone, my name is Steve Kurylo and I want to welcome you to this informative talk. We have with us a very exciting and prestigious speaker this afternoon. Dr. Bob Hudson is the Professor of Wildlife Productivity and Management in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Alberta Dr. Hudson will be speaking to us about velvet antler, but before we begin, I 'd like to share his biography with you. Dr. Hudson is a graduate of the University of British Columbia, he holds a Ph.D. in Zoology in animal sciences. Dr. Hudson has published over look articles dealing with wildlife and conservation. He's currently the conference President of the Seventh Word Conference on animal production, he's been a consultant to numerous activities dealing with the management planning for the World Bank on large herbivores, he's been a consultant to the Dutch Foreign Aid dealing with the integration of wildlife into a commercial irrigation scheme, and in Kenya, he was a consultant to the integration of wildlife crops and livestock in the Setengetti Mara Ecosystem. Dr. Hudson, welcome.

A: Thank you very much Steve.

Q: Dr. Hudson I'd like to begin simply by asking you if you could just give us a bit of background on the traditional uses of velvet antler.

A: Now antler has been used since very ancient times. We first see it in the written record in about the time of Christ, about 2000 years ago. I noticed that your information that you distributed to your people notes that some of the most comprehensive records are from the Chinese literature from the Han dynasty. It is interesting that either communication in the ancient world is much better than we thought it was, or the value of velvet has been recognized in different areas at about the same time. So in Roman literature dating from about the same time, about zero b.c., we have references there to the use of antler velvet. Reference continues until well into the 1600's in Europe, then it seems to have disappeared or forgotten as an important nutritional supplement. I presume a preoccupation of royalty with hunting deer for their trophies preempted any interest in this product. But the interest persisted in the Asian countries and it's maintained it's importance along with a number of different herbal medicines such as Ginseng right up to the modern day. The evidence is that the market is as strong as ever, it doesn't seem to be something fading into the distant past and being replaced by western medicine, it's seen as a compliment to Western methodology.

Q: It seems that this velvet antler product has been used for thousands of years, is there any basis to it?

A: The very fact that it has been used for thousands of years attests to the safety of it's use and certainly to it's effectiveness. Also the fact that it's been used and apparently discovered independently in different areas suggest that it does have some basis in fact. I think it's important to point out most modem medicines actually derived from herbs, that were used traditionally, so antler and other products such as Ginseng are not unusual in that sense. It's simply that we haven't really found the active principle and applied it to the Western approach to treatment. I might also add, that even the western approach of trying to find a specific chemical to solve a specific symptom and react to a specific symptom actually has been questioned, so many diseases have a much more common basis, they are based on stress and to an imbalance to various things that the body needs. Oriental medicine actually emphasizes prevention rather than treatment, it emphasizes restoring balance and correcting balance before these diseases develop. The fact that velvet antler is used for such a wide variety of diseases doesn't necessarily imply that it's simply Dr. Bells wonder medicine, but rather that many diseases have a common cause, and supplements like antler velvet are used to correct these imbalances before these diseases develop.

Q: This is a fairly new addition to western culture, how have, western scientists responded?

A: I think the thing that attracted Western scientists interest was a few published reports by scientists in Russia, Korea, Taiwan, and China. They conducted clinical trials that suggested that velvet not only worked, but it was possible to distinguish velvet of different origins, for example Seik antler is prized in traditional Chinese medicine, Wapiti antler is considered the best and most effective of the different sources of velvet. The clinical trials are published in languages that are foreign to Westerners, so few of us
speak enough Russian or Korean to really get a grasp of that literature. We now have people that have joined our teams that do speak these languages and do have access to this literature. It seems that a scientific foundation has been laid in Eurasia, and Westerners have responded by doing their own clinical trails to evaluate the pharmacological properties of these drugs. And yet, I should add, that this work is relatively new in the West, interest in the product is new, as you know, and this work is simply underway and results have still yet to really be firmed up. All indications are that there is a basis to this traditional use.

Q: Is there currently any work being done by the University of Alberta in this regard?

A: One of the main Western centers that has looked at the use of velvet antler is the New Zealand group out of Invermae. We've tried to follow on their heels and conduct out own research, in collaboration with John Simm, a Product Technologist, who also is of Korean origin and hence has access to that wealth of literature and an understanding of the uses. He's applied his expertise to the particular problem, and we are now conducting trials to evaluate it's efficacy. We have done some work on the development of drying methods, the question of processing technology, this was done in collaboration with a visitor, our colleague from Gelin University in China. We used his knowledge of the traditional method to scale a commercial version, an industrial version. This is currently used at one of the main plants in Western Canada. I believe that's the plant that supplies the product which you use in your product Steve.

Q: That's correct.

A: Now in addition to this work on product technology, we did some collaborative work with a Korean University to explore the pharmacological properties of antler. This first study was suggestive and used as a basis for a fuller program. We now have a new student who's joined out program and he'll be conducting his Ph.D. program on the pharmacological properties of antler velvet. The actual approach is rather different than Western medicine in order to evaluate the product, because it tends to offset stress, you need an animal model, which involves animals which are slightly stressed, there is very little result if the product is offered to a perfectly unstressed healthy animal. So the work that we've started to do looks at chicks, that's our model, that have been fed oil that is slightly rancid. Oil that's been heated and left in the air, rather similar to the oil that bathes your french fries daily, so these birds have a diet that is high in oils and we are now looking at the effect of velvet in offsetting the slightly toxic effects, the stressful effects of consuming material like that. There are a number of animal models that have been used, one of them is rabbits that have been fed a high cholesterol diet. Now this, for rabbits, presents quite a physiological challenge, much more so than to humans, and it's been very effective in reducing the effects of a high cholesterol loading. Another model that's often used is rats that have been made anemic, and they simply study the rate or recovery of the hermadocrite and red blood cells. Another important test is in animals who have had slight liver damage usually caused by some pollutant, like carbontetrachloride, and it's simply a matter of looking at the rate of recovery of animals that have been exposed this way. There's also been work done on the response of animals that have had whiplash injury. These animal models, Of course, suggest that the effects of velvet are not in the imagination, so we would assume that animals don't imagine and don't respond to a placebo effects. We feel we are working with real physiological effects in these animals.

Q: That's wonderful. You mentioned stress. This is a big area of concern for society today. Could this be a good tonic for

A: Well, that's how it's used in Asia, and that may explain why it's continued to be so important into the present day. The stress or urban life, in particular, with air and noise pollution, and job stress, I think certainly creates the need in a very large segment of our population. As I pointed out before, anyone who is perfectly healthy is unlikely to benefit much from taking velvet tonic. But the question to put to you is whether a very large percentage of the population can claim to be so unstressed. Most people would definitely benefit from a tonic that restores the balances, a natural product, that would store the various nutritional deficiencies imbalances that we experience in our modem diet.

Q: The vitamins and minerals have been used for many years, what would make velvet antler products different?

A: The one thing that's quite clear is that the active principals in velvet are not vitamins and minerals. Of course, it's a good source of calcium and phosphorus, but vitamins are not particularly significant in velvet. It seems to be related to a variety of other things. A number of studies have looked at protein and nitrogen rich factions, they've looked at testosterone receptors, other hormone
receptors, they've considered eucapolysacarides and various fatty acids. These different compounds are very important nutritionally, and there's been a lot or work to explore what effects they would have. We have to admit though, at the present time, the beneficial affects of antler, although those are well demonstrated, have not been tacked down very tightly to specific chemical ingredients. Indeed that's the thrust of most of the current research.

Q: Could velvet be considered more a food than a chemical or drug?

A: I think it's very definitely a food. And the reason I say it is, it seems to be the balance or various ingredients, it seems to be important. There doesn't seem to be any curious distinctive product that specifically targets or interferes with our influences any specific physiologic function in humans. It seems to be more of a balance, the way I see it, is that because of our less than natural diet, we tend to have built various deficiencies, many of them we know about in terms of fatty acid composition and vitamins and minerals, as you point out. But many of them we still don't know about, and the best protection is simply a very varied diet based on natural product.

Q: Would there be a limit as to how long a person should stay on the product? Is it O.K. to stay on it permanently? Is it toxic in any way?

A: Well, it's simply not toxic if the quantities are small. First of all, it's a natural product, it's always been a natural food for mankind for the 90% of our existence as hunters and gatherers. So being a natural product, it's one of the safest of foods. Most people in traditional uses, consider it to be a lifelong ingredient, and they take it faithfully. Although, I must abet, more commonly do feel the effects of stress, in some people it just means taking it during the winter, when the weather is not quite as comfortable. In others, it's dealing with specific problems like job stress. One thing that I think you have pointed out to your distributors, is that it isn't an aspirin, so you don't take one when you feel ill. It's a tonic that you take regularly, much like cod liver oil, and it's only after restoring these natural balances with prolonged use, that it's benefits are fully developed.

Q: Would you know, Dr. Hudson, if it matters when we take the product? Before we eat, after we eat, in the morning, just before bed?

A: As far as anyone knows, it doesn't make any difference, and probably, it should be when it's most convenient for the consumer. If it's a regular sort of dietary supplement, then it's good, of course, to take it at the same time of day, and then you don't forget and skip days and whatnot. But as far as anyone knows there is no complex interactions with other food products that would inactivate or potentiate it. But I must admit too, that this hasn't been very fully studied.

Q: It seems to be just a general overall good product.

A: Yes it's good for you, just like cod liver oil, I guess. And in the gelatin capsules, it probably tastes a bit better.

Q: Could you give us, just in general terms, some specific results that you are aware of from people having used product either in the Western world or the Orient?

A: From the Orient, I think the experiences have been well documented, so there are many cases and this includes clinical trials. For example, it has been used in athletes to increase performance, there have also been clinical traits that suggest students perform better because their concentration is somewhat better because they are feeling better. Although this wealth or evidence course from Asia, it hasn't been used as long in North America, so many of the cases are of the sort that you might consider anecdotal. At the same time, your distributors will start to collect this feedback, and I think I'll rely on you to develop the practical experience as this feedback continues. What I expect, is that in Asia, people will claim benefits for a whole variety of different troubles and many of them will find it stems from one basic problem, stress. Some main diseases are caused by stress, or in turn result in stress, so that velvet is often very effective in dealing with a whole class of disorders.

Q: We've had many calls recently attesting to the fact that consuming the velvet antler has eliminated the swelling and the pain associated with arduitis. It seems to be very effective for that. Are there other areas where you have knowledge of it's effectiveness?

A: Well, whiplash, I mentioned, and this seems to be one of the more exciting applications in the sense that quite often physiotherapy fails. So there's momentary relief, manipulation does help in the short term. But there seems to be no long term solution to a serious whiplash injury. There are reasons to suspect that velvet would work, other than people claiming that there has been definite improvement. First of all, consider that antler technically is bone, it regenerates which doesn't occur in any other mammal, so it's essentially an appendage that can regenerate, and it does so very rapidly. Within 60 days, a huge amount of material has been deposited in antler. This means that the whole chemical composition has to be geared to this very rapid regeneration of bone which might have significance for disorders like arthritis. For innervation and vascularization those also must be accelerated in this rapidly growing tissue. So we could expect benefits to disorders like whiplash, for example, where there may be some nerve damage associated with the muscle stretching. Improved vascularization of injured sites would provide relief from either of those two disorders, arthritis or whiplash. I think from the nature of the product and the physiology of antler development we can see why it does work in these settings.

Q: Sounds like a blood tonic.

A: Many people call it that actually, that's the claim in Asia, but it's often difficult to translate word for word what they mean. Quite often they talk about it cleansing the blood, in physiological terms I'm not sure exactly what that means but the idea is sound.

Q: One of the interesting things you mentioned the other day was stress, and how it related to pollution. I hadn't tied the two together. But the air pollution and velvet seem to go somewhat together. Could you just talk on that for a moment?

A: I think that out trials with the slightly rancid oil; in essence, a food pollutant, arises from heated and burned oil, but this is indicative of the ways chemicals cause us physiological insult, and then the restorative and corrective effects of velvet.

Q: Although it's not one of the questions that comes up regularly, there is a thought as to whether or not the harvesting of antler is a humane practice. Could you speak on that for a moment?

A: Actually, when the industry was established, a number of people pointed this out as a concern, and actually we've started work with agriculture Canada on an objective assessment of the stress that's imposed by velveting. Our general feeling now, although we are going to continue a great deal and monitor developments in this area, is that the guidelines that have been established in provincial protocols ensure the welfare and the safety of the animals and operators alike.

Q: Dr. Hudson, Wapiti or elk antler is preported to be the best antler in the world, and particularly Canadian elk are presorted to be the best of the elk species. What would make that so?

A: The traditional market was for Seka antler, and there was always more demand for larger more spectacular racks. For some time, the Morell held the esteemed position of the most prized velvet. This was Russian product. With the availability of Canadian wapiti, it seems the premium preference has shifted to our deer. The one point seems to be the general size and appearance of the antler, the second though, this has important bearing on Canadian velvet, is that higher quality velvet seems to come from animals grown at higher attitudes. I've heard a number of Asian authorities suggest that it was because of the harshness of the environment. Personally, I think it's because of the strong photoperiod, because antlers develop in response to photoperiod, in response to day length, and where you have a very strong difference between the shortest day and the longest day, you have the most concentrated and rapid period of antler growth. And I think that's most highly corolated with the quality of the product. We can expect Canadian wapiti to hold that position of absolutely the premium product worldwide.

Q: Could you talk for a minute about the procedure of processing antler velvet?

A: There are a number of different procedures, and the one that our group worked on was a modification of the traditional Chinese drying method. So with a collaborator from Gelin University in Northeastern China, we industrialized the traditional method, which was based on repeatedly dipping the antler in boiling water with subsequent drying. The actual schedule seems to be quite critical, the objective is clear, for the traditional market you want a product that is without wrinkles, cracks, and whatnots, holds it's shape and holds it's color. Much of the processing is related to creating a stable, dried product, while retaining these favorable visual evenal factory characteristics. So that's the objective of that particular method. It might seem that when we move to processed antler, the end consumer buys it in powder form, capsule form, he doesn't buy a whole antler, it would seem then, that this concern with the visual appearance may be less important, it might suggest that we could move to other processing technologies. Such a freeze drying, it's a modern technique it definitely protects the active ingredients in the antler, but at the same time, the benefits of heat dried have to be remembered. The Canadian Government actually requires that licensed plants only use the heat drying method at the moment. The reason is that, although the chance is very slim, they have concerns around essentially delivering a raw product to the consuming public. So this heat and dry treatment inactivates any potential pathogen that might be in the product. That's the reason we've stayed with the heat drying process. And I know that there will be refinements in the future, but it's definitely the best procedure at the moment.

Q: And, as you know, that is a procedure that is used in our processing facility, that we use in the Inner Sense capsules.

A: Yes, and that's the largest most important plant in Canada.

Q: What do you see as the benefits of the development of velvet antler?

A: We've talked about the prime benefit to the consumer, there's also an indirect benefit that I think we should address. This product supports a fledgling industry, one that I think will become increasingly important in the future, and that's the game ranching industry. I think it has an important toll to play in the future.

Q: We've looked upon it also from the studies that we have. It certainly holds the prospect of relieving pain and suffering for probably millions of North Americans as we learn more about this product.

A: It could very well do so, and there is an exciting few years ahead, and we will be relying on your distributors for feedback, testimonials from people, so we can find the range of problems which it has been used to solve.

Q: The testimonials are coming in now, and we'll be working together closely in the future.

A: I'm looking forward to that.

Q: Game farming is said to be the most environmentally gentle industry on the face of the earth. What are your thoughts on that?

A: We very clearly have to reconsider our approach to agricultural development, subsidized crop production. Intensive crop production has actually carried quite a cost. So there has been contamination of ground water, with extensive over-heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides, so that in general, there has been a shift to animal based industries, forage has replaced cropland. This requires, of course, a competitive livestock product, the balance of different types of land; cultivated and pastureland, depends on the relative profitability of crops and livestock. If livestock is more valuable, and inherently more productive, then the profit margin increases for that particular activity. What we expect is that the relatively high efficiency of game farming will actually encourage more people to retire cropland, re-establish pastures, and with wild animals, they have one of the most natural of the world's production systems, it's almost by definition, natural. In this way game farming will make a very important contribution to the sustainability of Western agriculture.

Q: Dr. Hudson, we've talked about arthritis, rheumatism, and whiplash. Could you recap what other thing velvet antler could be used for?

A: A whole variety of disorders that are related to either stress, or that are based on the rate of recover, the restoration of tissues. The sort of things that we might suggest would be for example, back pain, headaches where there is a stress basis to them, blood pressure control, because of it's association with stress, wound healing, recovery from surgery for example, anemia and other blood disorders, all of these respond either to restorative cell stimulation that antler may provide. Many liver disorders where it's a matter of stimulating liver cells, lymphatic cells to renewed activity, fever is another one that they claim benefits from it, but largely it's the more chronic debilitating disorders.

Q: it's an amazing product. We're looking forward to marketing and getting to know this product more and more throughout North America.

A: It's definitely a different approach to medicine.

Q: Dr. Hudson, I'd like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us this afternoon, and the share this information.

A: Thank you Steve.


InnerSense International Inc. makes no medical claim or specific recommendation for the use of their products either direct or implied for any real or imagined medical aliment.

1995 InnerSense Aug/95